Chard Town 0 - 1 Bridport
Les Phillips Cup
Saturday 17th February 2018
A superb Mark Salter goal after 14 minutes was enough to settle this Les Phillips Cup derby at Zembard Lane on Saturday which had been hyped up during the week and happily did not disappoint writes Kerry Miller.
With Bridport now managed by former Robins’ boss Adam Fricker and most of his squad being ex-Chard players there was some tension before the game with home boss Paul Down saying: "I think it is going to be important to channel emotions and aggression in the right direction. "We will need to perform to our maximum to achieve any sort of result, but as we all know on any given day, cup upsets do happen."
Fricker meanwhile said: "It will certainly be a tough test against a side that are in good form and with home advantage. "We will be approaching and preparing for the game exactly the same as we would any other."
In the end Chard had to concede second best to a stunning goal with a small crumb of comfort being it was scored by one of the few on the pitch who had not played for them in the past. It was the experienced striker’s 495th senior goal as he homes in on the magical 500 which started way back at Frome Town.
The pitch had recovered well and was in remarkable condition and the sun had encouraged a crowd of more than 200 with Bridport introducing a well known face to the side as Chris McGrath made his debut, having signed from Taunton Town. The vast defender is the son of former Manchester United and Northern Ireland international Paul McGrath and although now in his mid-30s his experience shone through all through the game.
Former Chard Town secretary Tom Miller was remembered before the game with a minute’s silence, he having passed away recently and when the action began the home team forced two corners inside 30 seconds with a free-kick wasted into the bargain.
The industrious Max Westlake grafted well to set up skipper Taoufik Ben-Salem whose flick went wide then Liam Cleal had a claim for a penalty waved away by referee Sam Littlefair before Salter struck on 14 minutes. Ed Butcher found space on the left and his perfectly weighted cross was nodded over and wide of home keeper Jon Hill for an early lead slightly against the run of play.
Bridport began to have more of the possession going up the slope and Tom Richardson nodded a corner over then Richard Hebditch shot over but Chard were not overawed by their Premier Division opponents who had a such a fine run in the FA Cup earlier in the season and on the half hour Westlake was wide with an effort on the counter attack. He then had another penalty appeal ignored before his side were rescued by Hill who saved well low to his right from a Lee Sweet drive. James Boyland volleyed wide after a free-kick was not cleared and Ben-Salem found the side-netting but Hill was in action again on the whistle flting away to keep out a McGrath header.
After the break Bridport began to dominate although at the back the imposing McGrath and Ben-Salem were having their own personal battle with McGrath cautioned just past the hour mark for a challenge. Chard knew it was not going to be their day late on when Cleal seemed to be bundled down in the area but the third penalty shout of the day got the same response and Bridport survived. Boyland was just crowded out after Ben-Salem had squared across the area then Bridport countered with Hebditch inches wide away from sewing up the tie and when Salter fed Hebditch to bring another fine save from Hill followed by an even better one seconds later, Chard still had a sniff.
In the end Cleal’s drive from an angle was held by ex-Chard keeper Jason Hutchings and the Bees held on to take their place in the next round draw.
Bridport now hope to play Cadbury Heath at home on Wednesday as they try to make inroads into their backlog of league games while Chard travel to leaders Westbury United on Saturday.